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tv   This Week in Northern California  PBS  April 2, 2011 1:30am-2:00am PDT

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captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund i'm going to find a way to get our budget balanced. we have to protect our schools, our public safety, our public universities, our environment. >> what's next after budget talks in sacramento break down when governor brown and republicans reach a final impasse. san francisco considers offering social media company twitter a controversial tax incentive to relocate to the city's midmarket area. many are without medical coverage on this one-year anniversary of the affordable care act. >> we will not accept any
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contracts until those -- drop the demands. >> and with cesar chavez day celebrations, how far have california's farm workers come? that's all coming up next. ♪ >> belva: good evening. i'm belva davis. welcome to this week in northern california. joining me tonight on our news panel are david bacon, associate editor, new america media. victoria colliver, health care
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reporter for the "san francisco chronicle." rachel gordon, city hall reporter also with the chronicle. and carla marinucci, senior political writer with the "san francisco chronicle." so carla you heard it. the governor said i'm going to find a way. to get a budget. what is he going to do? >> you heard his youtube message which came out on monday. this situation is just ugly, ugly, ugly. no other way around it. we were here just last week in this very chair. it looked like the republicans and brown were talking and things were going to get done. on monday, he came out with the youtube message. suspended all the talks with the republicans and said i just don't know what they want anymore. they don't seem to know what they want anymore. in fact, the republicans have put out a list of what they wanted. 53 items. seven pages including things like county fair management and it went on and on from there. brown has called it all off. he now says he's going to do a
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state tour and actually talk to voters himself. he put out a pension plan of his own and says he's going to get it out there and pass this legislation with or without republican support. but the bottom line is, the budget, what happens now. what is plan b? is it no election, which is possible? maybe they'll try and do this all up in sacramento without going to the voters. is it a september election? a november election? right now, it is a mess. there's just no other way to characterize it. >> speaking of elections, the california federation of teachers released poll results today done by research that says 79% of all california voters and 3 out of 5 republicans would vote yes on an initiative that raised the taxes 1% on the top 1% of the income earners in the state of california, which would only actually take their tax rate back to the mid-90s. >> it's interesting you raise
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that point, david, because the republicans have continually thrown up andrew cuomo in new york saying there's a democratic governor who has delivered a budget without taxes and done it early. how did he do it? well, new york has exactly what you are saying. a surcharge for those who make over $250,000, which has helped close the budget, which has huge support from the taxpayers of new york. that's only one of the ways cuomo has been able to do it and brown hasn't. the two-thirds majority needed to pass new taxes in california is something they don't have in new york. it's a huge difference here. >> the hurdle it seems is not to get the taxes passed at this point. it's just to get them on the ballot. what do the republicans say when they are asked, why don't you just let the people decide. if pea the people don't want the taxes then we won't have the taxes. how do they answer that? >> even a lot of moderate, conservative republicans have said, look. what's the loss? just put it in front of the
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people. the fact is that the republicans say the voters weighed in on this in 2009. they were very strongly against new taxes, and it's -- the job of the legislators to rule. the big problem is they don't want labor to weigh in. there will be a lot of money thrown at this from both sides. both sides are worried about that. >> sounds like they are saying they know better than the voters, though. >> they are really in a bind in taking this position. a lot of even republicans up there say what is the law? just go for it. if the voters vote it down thairks covered. >> maybe the republicans can read poll numbers, though, too. maybe they are afraid that even republicans at this point are going to vote for tax increases. >> the latest poll showed it isn't going to be a lock for jerry brown to get this stuff passed, even if it goes before the voters. you are talking about a huge war with all kinds of ads. we do know from that last vote in 2009, people don't like to have to weigh in on this. they'd rather it be settled up there in sacramento, which is
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why there's talk now of maybe they're just going to do it that way. maybe they're going to try to get some republicans on board and pass this stuff up in sacramen sacramento, not goy to the voters. jerry brown has said from the beginning of his campaign, i will not pass new taxes unless the voters approved them and that is his problem. >> jerry brown problem or a republican problem? >> this is both of their problems up there, victoria. i mean, a lot of people fault brown for making that kind of campaign promise, for not being able to deliver. the democrats made a lot of risks up there voting against redevelopment and some other things. they put themselves on the line. the republicans sat out a lot of those votes on cutting social services. so the democrats aren't happy with brown either in some ways, but this is a very heavy lift for jerry brown. >> is there a way -- out of those 52 items on the list, to discern what is really important to republicans? i mean, at some point, won't they have to, you know, pick out
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a few things that are possible? >> absolutely. i mean, we do know they want a spending cap. they want pension reform, regulatory reform which includes rolling back environmental regulations. this is some stuff that democrats don't want to give in on but brown himself has said pension reform being an example, we know we've got to do something here. he's come out with this 12-point plan. and at this point, he looks ahead of the game. he's now saying i'm going to go to the people on this. i'm going -- he's got messages out to the public. and the republicans really have no game plan. >> belva: why can't republicans do the same thing? >> they are. i mean, they are. but the fact is, jerry brown is a guy who has done this for 40 years and knows how to get a message out as you've seen with the youtube. he's done this a couple of times now and if he goes out there and campaigns around the state, as he says he's going to do
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starting next week, his message goes to the voterers a lot more than -- the republican leadership up there doesn't have a consistent message. >> like we saw in the midwest where people are going to take over the capitol and there's a showdown that way. is it going to get that bad because we don't have a budget? social services are being cut. schools have bigger classroom sizes. people don't want to pay taxes. >> both sides have something to worry about if that happens. the public opinion on public employees unions, that has changed a lot on this pension issue. people are angry about that. spending issues. on the other hand, how far do they want to cut? do they want to see the school year cut three weeks? you know, fire stations close. that's something brown is banking on that californians will not accept. >> we're going into election mode where we're -- and we should be -- >> welcome to the perpetual campaign in california. >> belva: one of the interests of the republican party is to look out for business interests. in san francisco, people here looking out for business interest. a propose tool give one of the
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big, giant tech companies a break here. to keep jobs or bring jobs in. >> democrat only board of supervisors, democratic mayor. they are looking to a corporation, twitter, saying we really don't want you to pack up and move down to the peninsula which they are threatening to do. what can we do to keep you in san francisco? right now that company has about 350 employees. it's planning to go to 2,500, 3,000 employees over the next several years. so san francisco officials, led by mayor ed lee, board of supervisors president david shue and jane kim said, here's a deal. we've got to revitalize this area. midmarkets on market street between about 10th and 5th street. it's sort of the skid row of san francisco now. if you move here if you are a company that moves here and you grow jobs we're going to put a cap on payroll taxes for any of the new employees that are hired. it's win-win. a company can get some kind of a tax break. the city might get some new life into these neighborhoods.
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they have since expanded it to go to the tenderloin a little bit, just north of there. a lot of things going on there. other companies said great. that's a good deal. but what if i don't want to move to the midmarket area. what else might you have for me? this whole thing started to come out about tax options. i'm sorry, about stock options for companies. that's really the big bugaboo. companies like twitter, zenga, yelp, that are potentially going to go public soon. that's where they could get a big hit on paying payroll taxes. san francisco is the only city in california that levf levies payroll tax on stock options. you get one for $10, sell it for $1,000, you'll get taxed on that higher rate right now. for a company like twitter that's potentially tens of millions of dollars. while there's a midmarket plan being contemplated, a number of other supervisors are coming in and saying maybe we have to reform the whole business tax and give a break completely
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citywide. >> at this point, when you have a company like twitter, internationally known, doesn't that company have san francisco over a barrel in this case? you don't want to lose a company like that. >> they absolutely do. and people are looking at twitter is the new technology boom in san francisco. that's where they are looking to have the jobs. we have the bread and butter of the hospitality industry but they are going biotech, green technology, high technology software companies. that's where we're going to start getting the money in san francisco. so they are fearful if you do go to the peninsula which we've seen that other companies will follow. what can you do to -- >> are there any examples out there? any examples of other cities who have done this in california? >> no, because san francisco has a unique payroll tax. there some are other -- there are some other jurisdictions that have a payroll tax for businesses. most have a combination of it. if you're going why would you tax job creation here? there are a lot of opponents, though, and that's led by former supervisor daley, service employees union 1021, the
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largest city employees union. they are going, is this really the time? they are calling if corporate welfare. we're asking city employees to give up some of their pension benefits, when we've got deep budget problems in san francisco. a $380 million deficit that has to be closed soon. services are going to be cut, employees laid off. why would we give this up at all? it's a chicken and egg -- >> historically speaking, leaving aside the unique nature of the payroll tax here or the stock option tax, san francisco, like most municipalities, has a long history of giving breaks. of one kind or another for financial services corporations, for health care corporations to locate in san francisco or to stay in san francisco. companies take the tax breaks and then eventually they leave anyway. so what guarantee is there that if twitter got the tax break that they would stay more than a year or two or three? san francisco is going to be
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stuck with sacrificing with the money. and it's a lot of money. but who is to say that we're going to really -- >> or you could go the other way. right now they're not going to get a break on the taxes they are paying right now, about $3.5 million, $4 million for the payroll tax. san francisco risks twitter going down to the peninsula and losing that out altogether. now there say finite time limit on this that they can collect this tax break for no more than six years in the period. the question is, though, has this ever worked before? we've seen there's been a biotax credit for companies going to the mission bay area. that's works. we started trying that in san francisco with the film industry to give them some kind of a tax break because we're losing a lot of business to vancouver and other cities that have the film industry. people aren't quite sure what to do with it. this is economics. it's land use, politics, policy, a lot of personalities involved with this as well. it's got everyone scrambling, though. a company like twitter really is
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this kind of trophy company to have in san francisco. a lot of people know about it. 350 jobs. 3,000 jobs. is that going to make or break the economy? probably not in the city but people are fearful of a domino effect either way. either you are opening the door, pandora's box, some are saying, to let these companies get away with not paying their fair share of taxes. they are going you have to have fbs you want to fund city employees. if you want to fund social service programs. you have to get the money from somewhere. >> san francisco -- >> bank of america is not there anymore. they got a lot of tax breaks to build that tower. >> san francisco tries to figure out what to do about a payroll tax. our president obama is trying to figure out what to do about his health care bill that's been sort of out there floating. first anniversary coming up. it's time to do some assessment. so victoria, where is the obama health care bill at this point? >> well, on this one-year anniversary, march 23rd, but then a week later a whole bunch of other aspects that were
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signed. so we can look at this, the end of march, as its one-year anniversary. the democrats used it as an opportunity to trot out all the people that have been helped. we're looking at people who have kids who are adults but now qualify for their health insurance. we have a reduction -- elimination of caps and spending limits and also the elimination of the pre-existing prohibition on children health insurance. so we have a number of people. there's more than that, being helped. there's also masses of people not being helped. and we also have the republican side doing various -- whether it's tea party activists or whatnot trying to either not pass parts of state legislation that would make the health reform possible, which would be the exchange bill, for example. and that's the place where in 2014 when most americans are required to buy health insurance that there's where you go to get it. it's a virtual marketplace.
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california was the first state in the country to actually pass that legislation and get that rolling. but there's various different methods whether it's through the courts or simply digging in their heels that can slow down this process. and that has created in the public's mind a pretty confused, you know, attitude toward this large piece of legislation. i mean, people don't know how it's helping them. >> what are polls showing right now on this? this has been -- i'm wondering if the republicans have really won the public relations war on this. it is now referred to as obama care, you know. >> not knowing what to call the thing. >> people really understand, since much of the legislation doesn't kick in, as you mentioned, for a couple of years yet. the people still -- they're confused about what -- >> i think they are. the kaiser family foundation released an anniverse early par. about 45% of the people polled
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were opposed to it and 42% in favor of it. and like 12% completely confused. not knowing what to say. and those numbers have been about the same. they've gone up and down depending on what's happened politically. so there is a great confusion about it because it's this big, complex thing that has a lot of things have to go into motion. and you have things like health insurers jacking up rates lately which is a really bad pr for everything, even if it's unrelated. >> do people know why they are opposed to it? is it because individuals saw their health benefits cut somehow or they have expectations that they are going to be getting something they didn't get in this past year or still fearful of death panels? is it reality or is it just kind of stuff that's out there that they think might be wrong with it? are there really things to be opposed to at this point? >> i think what people are opposed to is they've said how is this really helping me? if you are the vast majority of people, you get your coverage through your employer. and that really hasn't changed. so they look at these dollars
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that are eventually going to be poured into this system, and that hasn't really helped them yet. meanwhile, they may be paying higher rates for their insurance. >> victoria -- >> belva: we've had a number of clinics that were supposed to be the answer and part of the solution to this problem closing. key clinics that were providing definitely critical care to many people. how does that fit into this whole thing? >> the clinics are interesting because when we talk about the whole part of the bill or the law that would be to shift a lot of people into public programs. where they're going to get their care? a lot of them are going to go to the clinics. it's going to take time to ramp up. you have to increase the primary care population, do clinics there which serve as a safety net. meanwhile, a lot of them rely on different sources of funding that have since dried up. some influx of money to clinics through either the stimulus fund and eventually and already
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started through the health law. for a lot of them, it's not enough. clinics, some of them are free clinics. some of them qualify. it's very confusing. many of them are struggling. >> are they going to be able to survive, victoria? some of these are clinics that serve a particular population that isn't going to be able to get health care services if those clinics close. you know, and what you are writing, you say there's a period of two to three years that they have to survive before the money from the federal medical insurance program kicks in. are they going to be able to survive? >> i think most of them, especially if they've been aaround for a while, feel pretty confident. but we'll have to see. ? >> >> belva: some famous ones -- up in sacramento, they are doing something we only used to see on foreign soil. remote health care? >> remote area medical, which is -- they got their name, i
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think they started in the mid'80s, i want to say, overseas. but since -- in more -- in recent years, more and more they've been doing these huge events in this country where they, like in sacramento this weekend and next weekend they're going to be in the oakland coliseum. and they just bring in all these volunteers. people show up. they line up the night before. they try to see about 1,000 people a day. as many as they can. as many volunteers as they can. so there are -- they are look -- >> i mean, air force does this now with their personnel. they go to foreign countries and have these massive three-day health fairs for people. >> and they always turn away people. they can only do as many as they can. many often thousands are turned away. >> in the east bay, next week, and it's free to whoever getss on that line. >> they don't ask any questions. >> dental and it's vision and it's medical and they are doing the best they can to treat as many people as possible. >> some good news on a story that had a confused assessment.
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nothing confusing about what cesar chavez wanted for farm workers. we're celebrating chavez day. and so, david bacon, what's the state of farm workers today? >> well, the union did make a really big difference in the lives of farm workers in many ways, belva. we don't have the shorthand little toe. most have bathrooms and water. you can imagine what it would have been like to work in a field where there was no bathrooms and water, which is what life was like before the union game. the union helped workers to get political power. if you go to the san joaquin valley you find lots of small towns where there are latino mayors and city councils and that's a product of the upsurge that the union was part of as well, too. and at its height, farm workers make good money or at least better money. farm workers made twice the minimum wage would be the equivalent of them making $16 an
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hour, which is certainly not what they get anymore. but that being said, belva in a lot of ways, the conditions of farm workers have deteriorated pretty substantially. the minimum wage is the wage for most farm workers today. there's very little enforcement of health and safety law. we've had ten heat deaths in the last few years. the superior court just gave a labor contractor 48 hours of community service to punish him for the fact that a 17-year-old girl working out in the fields died, essentially, because of her heat exposure. housing. especially for people who travel with the crops. growers tore down labor camps a long time ago. there is no housing to replace it. and so when the grape harvest is on in the central valley you find people sleeping in their cars or under trees or even in the fields. so that's a big problem for workers. and then unemployment. we think that 9% unemployment is pretty bad here in urban areas.
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or 10% or 11%. unemployment is almost pretty much double what it is in urban areas in rural ones. imperial valley, the unemployment rate is over 30%. >> are a lot of the farms unionized now or the others decided we're going to try to match what we're offering the other farmers? >> what you are describing was the case in the 1980s. unfortunately today, the number of farms that are union is quite small. and i think the growers don't feel a lot of obligation to equal the conditions because, you know, union contracts still pay substantially more than minimum wage. and yet, for the vast, vast, vast majority of farm workers today, the minimum wage is still the wage that farm workers get. >> where are the biggest efforts to unionize workers. we're hearing that in the news. some new efforts to unionize them. where is that happening and considering the political situation in the rest of the
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country to sort of anti-union wave that we're seeing in wisconsin and other places, is that going to affect what's happening here in california? >> well, california likes to be different. and there is a bill that is in sacramento right now. senate bill 104 that's what's called the card check bill. that would give workers an alternate way of getting their union recognized and sitting down and bargain with employers other than elections. there are a lot of problems that unions have with elections. and among them is that they take a lot of time. they provide a forum in which there's oftentimes threats made and so forth. so this would allow workers to sign union cards and if a majority of the workers signed cards then the grower is obligated to bargain and there are also some penalties for firing people because of their union activity. that's passed through the senate. it's going to the assembly. the democrats are a majority in the assembly. jerry brown signed the agricultural labor relations act in 1975. would he sign this bill?
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well, i think there are a lot of hopes he would. >> at a time when unions are on the hot seat across the country, i mean, planning a massive demonstration coming up just next week, just to show that they have some power. why would jerry brown want to sign this bill? >> well, i think because, first of all, of concern over the situation of workers who are basically at the bottom of our economy. farm workers again have the lowest wages, the worst working conditions, the most dangerous jobs of pretty much anybody in the california economy. so i think that there might be a moral appeal that might be made to him about signing it. but also i think realistically speaking, when the union was strong, when the farm worker union was strong in california, it changed the politics of this state. and that's something i think that jerry brown would be very interested in doing is to kind of maintain a progressive majority, especially in those
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areas where the republicans are strong, rural california. >> my thanks to all of you for joining us here tonight. we appreciate it. our program is available to you any time at kqed.org/thisweek. for past episodes and segments, to subscribe to our newsletter and podcast and to share your thoughts. we close with photos taken by david bacon. i'm belva davis. good night. captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund
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